The report that a four-year-old school girl was sexually abused by the conductor inside a bus in Juhu, has sent the government-appointed committee that prepared the school bus policy in a tizzy. The panel is now scrutinising the school bus policy for possible loopholes.
According to the present policy, only students of Std I and above are allowed to travel by the school bus. However, there is no action mentioned in the policy against those schools that ferry nursery and kindergarten students in buses. Informal meetings have been conducted among the members of the committee that is responsible of framing the School Bus Policy regarding the issue.
Alleging lapses in execution, Indrani Malkani, a member of the committee, said that the policy was applicable to institutions which were defined as ‘Schools’ under the Education Act and that it covers only students in Std I and above. “The issue of children in nursery and play groups being ferried by buses has been flagged and will be taken up at an appropriate time,” she added.
Sources said that children going to nursery and preprimary schools should not be put in school buses, as they are too young to travel without a guardian. This issue is being discussed, as officials believe they need to strengthen the policy further and ensure safety of children. “There are few schools where children going to nursery and kindergarten are also boarding buses. We are discussing points that need to be incorporated in case any amendments are made to the policy,” said a RTO official.
A Pandey, a member of Parents Teacher Association, said that there is need for amending the policy and guidelines created for safety of children. Apart from this, the government is also planning to include verification of employees and ensure that schools observe due diligence while hiring or giving contracts for school buses. “As per the school bus policy, children going to nursery and kindergarten are not allowed to travel in school buses. It is the duty of the schools to take care of these children,” said V More, Transport Commissioner.
According to police officials, after finishing her school on January 15, the 4-year-old girl boarded the bus that regularly dropped her home from school. After all the other children had alighted, the cleaner of the bus allegedly took the girl to the backseat and violated her inside the moving vehicle. The accused then threatened the girl with dire consequences if she informed anyone. However, the victim, who was in pain, confided in her mother the next day about what had happened to her.
Bone of contention
Another point in the policy that needs to be looked into is that children of 12 years and below can be seated with 1.5 times of the bus’ capacity. This means that three children falling under this category can be seated on two seats and the bus wouldn’t be termed as loaded. However, many Omni vans that are used to ply children are often seen carrying too many children inside.